As was expected Russian President Vladimir Putin is establishing a long-term military presence in the Mediterranean Sea in part to contest the United States’ ability to operate freely and hold NATO’s southern flank at risk so that the Western Alliance can not unilaterally do any manoeuvre in the subject area. As on July 14, 2017, the position stands as below.
[i] Russia’s military has deployed approximately 15 naval vessels as part of a permanent Mediterranean Task Force (MTF) as of July 5, 2017.
[ii] Russia secured long-term naval basing for Mediterranean Task Force (MTF) in Tartous, Syria in January 2017 after signing a bilateral agreement with the Bashar al Assad regime that extends the previous lease on the Russian Naval Facility for the next 49 years.
[iii] Russian warships from the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s MTF launched two series of Kalibr cruise missile strikes against ISIS positions in Syria on May 31 and June 23, 2017 emphasising the Russian narrative.
[iv] The MTF’s June 23 strikes included coordinated fixed wing airstrikes.This strike highlighted Russia’s ability to execute a combined arms assault utilizing forward observation positions on land, strategic assets from the sea, and follow-on strikes from the air within an active combat zone.
[v] This increasing complexity of Russia’s coordinated strikes is indicative of Moscow’s dedication to the development and modernization of its military and to showcasing its arsenal for multiple audiences. Putin has already exploited enough the Syrian war to test Russia’s newest naval assets and weaponry in combat, including the P-800 Onyx supersonic anti-ship missiles.
[vi] The MTF will continue to receive the Russian Navy’s most advanced warships outfitted with Russia’s intermediate- and long-range land and ship attack cruise missiles. Russian officials have claimed that the MTF has also conducted a variety of operational and logistical naval exercises near the Libyan and Egyptian coasts.
[vii] Russia, which is in a strategic coalition with Iran, will continue to utilize the MTF to expand Russian military influence along the Mediterranean basin, while simultaneously increasing the risk to U.S. freedom of maneuver in the Middle East and North Africa. [viii] Russia’s growing naval capabilities, partnerships, and future basing expansion could threaten major global maritime trade chokepoints, including the Suez Canal, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Bab al Mandab Strait, in the long term.
[ix] Land based Russian strategic positions in the region are given in the attached picture.( Source : ISW report )